How To Read Palm Positions

Humans have the most complex interactions of any social animal. While seeing a cat arch its back or a dog bare its teeth is a clear signal, with humans, body language is more subtle. More than half of our face-to-face communication is non-verbal. Whether we know it or not, we are constantly sending out signals with our eyes, heads, hands, and posture. Learning to read these non-verbal signals can help you understand what a person’s true meaning or intent is.Most gestures are made with the hands, and in fact, there is an entire language just involving the palms.

For example, if someone shrugs their shoulders with their palms up, it is a much more emphatic signal that they are uninterested or don’t care, than if they shrug while their hands are by their sides or in their pockets. In America, this gesture is a non-verbal way of saying, “Whatever, dude.”

Open, relaxed palms facing upward indicate a lack of aggression (perhaps from showing that you are not holding any weapons?) and an open sincerity. Open, stiff palms facing upward with fingers spread can indicate frustration, as in “What are you doing?” or pleading, as in “Why are you doing this to me?”

But rotate the palms 180 degrees, and you have another set of meanings. Open palms facing downward or outward are a signal to stop, slow down, or restrain oneself. A general rule with palm gestures is that upward palms signal submission or appeal, while downward palms indicate authority.

[ We can tell that the guy is more dominant due to his palm facing forwards, while the lady is taking a more submissive role in the relationship ]

The position of the palm during a handshake is a signal, too. Someone shaking hands with the palm facing downward is expressing a sense of authority, while someone shaking hands with the palm facing upward is expressing submission. Vertical palms from both people shaking hands indicates a sense of equality.

In general, palms upward indicate openness, willingness, and submission, while palms downward indicate authority, resistance, and dominance. But be careful with some palm gestures! In America, the raised, open “high five” palm gesture is considered an insult in Pakistan. It’s a good idea to read up on body language of different cultures before visiting them.


(edits by Logen)